Hello, Roger. I cannot believe it has been no less than 10 years since you passed on April 4th, 2013, and I am rather amazed by that. I thought I might stop writing about films around the end of the 2010s, and I actually took a few weeks of break in 2016, but, what do you know, I keep going as usual even at this point. To be frank with you, I usually write around 250~300 movie reviews on my personal blog per one year, and, considering that I do not get paid at all for this, I will surely go to hell someday.
Meanwhile, you may be depressed by how things seem to be falling apart in our world these days. As you feared around the time of your death, the global climate has gotten worse and worse during last 10 years, and I was particularly disturbed by the alarmingly early flowering season of this year in South Korea. The flowers were usually supposed to be blossomed in early April at least, but they came several weeks earlier, and I am afraid we will suffer another hotter summer in the middle of this year.
Furthermore, I and many others are quite concerned about another rise of fascism around the world. In the time of President Barack Obama, we were fairly optimistic, but, thanks to many negative factors including those toxic social network service applications including Facebook, there came the unbelievable political ascent of Donald J. Trump, whom you incidentally despised a lot for many reasons. Thanks to this orange-faced prick, the American society came to show more of its uglier sides, and this deplorable bastard also enabled many similar rotten politicians around the world including Russian President Vladimir Putin, who recently started a big war against Ukraine not long after contributing a lot to Trump’s entrance in the White House in 2017.
In case of moviegoing, well, Roger, there are some good news and some bad news, and let’s start with those bad news. When Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” (2011) came out, we thought that its chillingly realistic depiction of a global pandemic was merely possible, but, what do you know, our world were struck really hard by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and it took no less than 3 years for us to arrive at the point of recovery. During that period, I and many others in South Korea always wore mask in addition to getting vaccinated more than once, but this pandemic was pretty unpredictable and chaotic, and I must tell you that I got infected once in last April. It was not a very pleasant experience at all, but, at least, I and many others in South Korea were more fortunate compared to millions of people around the world, because we did not have to suffer any extensive period of lockdown thanks to the collaborative efforts from the government and citizens.
Because of the pandemic, the global theater business was utterly devastated to say the least, and that even affected Ebertfest. I was supposed to go to 2020 Ebertfest, but I canceled my plan in early 2020 due to the rising number of infection cases in South Korea, but then 2020 Ebertfest was eventually canceled as things got much worse in US. Ebertfest was eventually back in action in last year, and a lot of people will gather as usual in Ebertfest 2023, but I still cannot go there due to several reasons including my little concern on whether it is safe to travel by airplane at present (I will definitely be back in next year or 2025, by the way).
In South Korea, movie theaters remained opened, but there were not many new movies to be released, so I and other movie fans had a sort of blessing in disguise. A local theater chain decided to release a bunch of old classic films ranging from “Jaws” (1975) and “Carrie” (1976) to “Dekalog” (1988) and “Tokyo Story” (1953), and I was happy to watch them all at movie theaters. Sure, I watched many of them via VHS or DVD a long time ago, but I really wanted to experience them in a big screening room, and it was a very exciting time for me and other movie fans.
In case of how movies have kept engaging us, you would be impressed by a bunch of notable movies during last 10 years. While you might be depressed by the mind-numbing homogeneity of many of superhero flicks, you could be delighted to observe many good filmmakers advancing as broadening our mind in one way or another. As a longtime admirer of Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, you would definitely admire some of their recent works such as “The Irishman” (2019) and “The Fabelmans” (2022). You would also cherish the considerable achievements of Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Guillermo del Toro, all of whom incidentally have more than one Oscar besides their respective Best Director Oscar awards at present. Considering how much you always supported new emerging filmmakers to watch, you would wholeheartedly support recent new talents including Ari Aster, Greta Gerwig, and Jordan Peele, and you would be quite excited to see Barry Jenkins becoming one of the best American filmmakers at present. Remember how much you supported Jenkin’s little but wonderful first feature film “Medicine for Melancholy” (2008)? Who could have guessed at that time that he would advance much further with his next feature film “Moonlight” (2016), which won three Oscars including the one for Best Picture?
And there is Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” (2019), which made a history not only as the first South Korean Best International Film Oscar winner but also as the first non-English language Best Picture Oscar winner. After this terrific milestone point, there came Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland” (2020) and Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari” (2020), and then we recently saw Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (2022) making another awesome milestone moment to remember at the Academy Awards ceremony.
In the meantime, the website founded by you and your wife Chaz has been doing well on the whole. I must confess that, due to that fragile nature of online websites, I had some doubt about how long it can actually exist, but, what do you know, it is now becoming 10 years old in addition to being quite prominent and influential, and I am glad to tell you that your wife and the defendable staff members of the website are doing their jobs pretty well even at this point. I sometimes disagree with some of the movie reviews posted on the website, but, what the hell, you did not always agree with your dear partner Gene Siskel, right?
Oh, I still write several pieces for the Far-flung Correspondent section every year as before. I actually wrote much less than what I planned around the time when you were alive, but I do not have much problem with that because I think things are different from when you were always there for me and other FFC members. I have virtually been getting a sort of free service without much official qualification on my resume, and, in my humble viewpoint, I and other FFC members are relatively more expendable than before.
Nevertheless, I keep going on the FFC section while also grateful to the main staff members including Matt Zoller Seitz and Brian Tallerico, who once gave me a valuable advice on my writing style in last April. I still feel like spinning wheels without getting improved at all, but I continue to try, and I hope to be less inconvenient for them. I don’t know when I can write as fast and eloquent as you did, but I will keep going anyway.
By the way, there is one last thing I want to tell you. I revealed to many others around them that I am a gay in late 2016, and things have been a bit better for me once I became more comfortable with my sexual identity. Although there are also some problems including my parents’ persistent denial (They still want me to marry a girl someday, for example), I became more active in case of sex and romance, and I may candidly write about that in my future memoir just like you did in your lovely memoir.
As finishing this inconsequential piece of mine, I come to miss you more Roger. So far, you are somehow the only one whose death made me shed actual tears throughout my whole trivial life, but you would generously tell me that there will be more people I will cry for. Yes, sir, I will definitely go on as much as possible for that – and more good new movies about which I may talk with you someday.
Remembering Roger Ebert (Written on April 5th, 2013)
Dear Roger…. (Written on April 4th, 2014)